New report highlights challenges and opportunities of creating a more mentally healthy financial and professional services sector

A new report released today by Scottish Financial Enterprise Young Professionals in partnership with SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) and See Me has underlined both the achievements and areas for improvement for the Scottish financial and professional services sector in tackling mental health.

Mental wellbeing has moved up the agenda in both the public and private sector in recent years as evidence has shown how the pandemic has intensified a pre-existing mental health crisis in Scotland and elsewhere. 

The financial and professional services sector is a major employer in Scotland, sustaining around 160,000 jobs and has been at the forefront of efforts to respond to the crisis. Wellbeing is a key component of the skills and inclusion theme of Scotland’s financial services strategy, established by Scottish Financial Enterprise, the member body for financial and professional services in Scotland. 

SFE’s Young Professionals Network partnered with SAMH, Scotland’s mental health charity, and See Me, Scotland's national programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination, earlier this year to explore perceptions of how this is impacting young professionals in the sector with the aim of developing an informed response. 

The report, titled ‘Mental health stigma, discrimination and support: Perspectives in Scotland’s financial and professional services industry’ found that: 

  • Most respondents with experience of mental health problems cited work as a contributing factor
  • Respondents generally had positive perceptions about mental health stigma and discrimination in the sector but were concerned disclosure could have negative career consequences
  • Respondents reported low confidence in the skills of managers to be able to effectively support employees experiencing mental health issues
  • Respondents expressed a desire to have better knowledge of how to support a colleague experiencing a mental health problem
  • Organisations are making clear efforts but need to better demonstrate a genuine commitment 
  • Key areas for improvement include need for well-being days, more training for managers and reviewing workload pressures

Based on the findings the report outlines key action areas the industry will focus effort on to create more mentally healthy workplaces. These are:

Culture – work with senior leaders, role models and employee networks to shift the culture across the sector in support of positive mental wellbeing

Communication – connect and amplify emerging best practice from across the sector, and from our partners at SAMH and See Me

Capability – seek to promote minimum standards for mentally healthy workplaces andto support management training with  help from SAMH and See Me

Covid-19 recovery – develop plans to ensure that young people and professionals in our sector are fully supported to enable a strong recovery from the pandemic

Commenting on the report, Sandy Begbie CBE, Chief Executive, SFE, and Trustee of children’s mental health charity Place2be said: “As a sector its vital that we continue to attract talented people from every background, and to achieve this we must do more to nurture truly inclusive work cultures built around people’s wellbeing. Doing this will allow our people to thrive, unlocking even greater potential for financial and professional services to grow as and offer greater support to our wider economy. This report will be the start of a process to work with our member firms across the industry to address the challenges identified and make sure that we learn and take action.”

Milly Batchelor, SFE Young Professionals Chair, said: “Our aim with this report was to give a voice to our members, using their insight, experiences and talent to challenge the status quo and push boundaries about how employers in our sector can support people to thrive. We are determined to work with our members and their firms to do whatever we can to try and ensure there is no long-term negative impact on their careers and wellbeing.”

Dr Richard Rutnagur, Director of Strategy and Business Development at SAMH, said: “This research shows there has been considerable progress on addressing mental health in the workplace within the sector but also that there is a long way to go before staff feel able to be open about their mental health at work. Already an area of boardroom focus prior to the pandemic, mental health issues have been exacerbated over the last 20 months with employee welfare increasingly viewed by employers through the lens of duty of care as well a risk in terms of productivity and economic performance.  As Scotland’s leading mental health charity, SAMH helps businesses improve how they support staff with mental health problems and in creating a working environment where employees can thrive.”

Dr Patty Lorenzo-Casal, Programme Manager at See Me, said: “The work that SFE has begun to undertake is an incredibly important first step, with the potential to improve the working lives of thousands of workers in this sector. Stigma and discrimination can damage employees’ confidence, limit their potential and prolong an illness. All of this harms the employer as well as the individual. When workplaces get it right on mental health it creates an atmosphere where people can flourish, it can help retain staff and improve the reputation of the organisation. We would encourage all organisations to follow SFE’s lead and make a change.”